Nuclear power after World War-II

Dr Rajkumar Singh

IN the years following the dropping of nuclear bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in August 1945, the scientists of the day turned their attention from atomic weapons to the peaceful uses of atomic energy. From the beginning a connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons exists because both require fissile materials.

Some of the technology that can be used to produce or purify a fissile material for a nuclear power plant could also be applied to producing nuclear weapons. Hence, it is not possible to separate entirely the peaceful from the military uses of atomic energy. Even today people in general are not aware that the energy from atoms could be put to important peace-time use.

It can easily be transformed into useful power: electric power to light our cities and keep our industries going; heat for our homes; power to propel our boats; and perhaps all other important uses in not too distant future. But the fact of the time was that with the end of war, the world was not at peace. With this the period known as the “Cold War” set in.
The Democratic Western countries and the Communist Eastern countries formed two large blocs, each with difference in ideas, about freedom and the rights of men. The two blocs were extremely suspicious of each others intentions. Each side was afraid that the other would turn the cold war into a true war and start an attack with atomic weapons of great destructiveness. In the circumstances, an arms race in atomic weapon sphere continued as earlier and the countries that knew how to build atomic weapons went on building them.
Effects of mass consciousness: However, the other side of the coin was not only good but encouraging too. A few people of the time along with scientists’ knowledge thought on the issue positively and in coming days decks were cleared for peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Countries of the world including the US were known about the nuclear weaponisation of the nations and in December, 1953 American President Eisenhower made a bold proposal before the UN General Assembly for ‘Atoms-for-Peace’ plan.

The President knew that the countries with large atomic projects were using most of their uranium for fissionable materials to make atomic weapons. He proposed that each of these countries should begin to pool some of its fissionable materials and distribute them to other countries for peaceful uses.

He was sure that in the hands of scientists and engineers these materials would help in scientific research, medicine and agriculture and would produce abundant electricity in the power-starved countries of the world. He added further that it was not general knowledge that the radio-isotopes made in reactors have very wide and varied applications: doctors use them to treat diseases, and biologists use them to study the life processes of men, animals, and plants.

With their help farmers get better fertilizers, breed species of plants more resistant to disease, produce seeds that yield more, plentiful crops, and improve the breeds and products of farm animals. The concept ‘Atoms for Peace’ plan led the convening of the first. International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva, Switzerland, in the summer of 1955. Earlier, the first atomic plant in the world to generate electricity steadily and to send it out for power lines was built in the Soviet Union and it started working in June 1954.
— The writer is Professor and Head, P G Department of Political Science, Bihar, India.

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